Don’t get me wrong. I like turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy as much as anyone. My expanding waistline is weighty evidence. But this year for Thanksgiving dinner, I’ll stray from the bland beige foods of my Midwest upbringing by adding to the holiday table a rainbow of fruits and vegetables from my garden. Red and yellow will come from heirloom tomatoes still ripening on the workbench in my garage, despite a killing freeze almost a month ago. Baked ‘Georgia Jet’ sweet potatoes from the root cellar provide a splash of orange. Green will come from parsley and ‘Panther’ cauliflower. I harvested the last of the ‘Panther’ cauliflower (more chartreuse green than forest green) and purple ‘Graffiti Hybrid’ cauliflowers a week ago, but they’re holding well in the fridge. Blue was the most difficult color to introduce, and I’ll admit that I’m stretching it a bit by using frozen black chokeberries harvested earlier this fall. (Blueberries and blue/black raspberries never made it to the freezer. They were devoured as soon as they were harvested!)
Will colorful fruits and veggies will grace your Thanksgiving table? If not, consider planting some next year to perk up your plate with diverse hues. After all, the first seed catalogs arrived this week. It will soon be time to place seed orders for next year’s colorful feast.
By harvesting green mature tomatoes and ripening them in the dark, I often have fresh tomatoes well into December.
'Furry Yellow Hog' is a blocky yellow heirloom tomato with fuzzy skin and mild flavor.
'Georgia Jet' sweet potatoes have reddish skin and deep orange flesh.
Curled parsley is a decorative garnish that also works well to cleanse the palate.
'Graffiti Hybrid' cauliflower is a gorgeous lavender purple alternative to plain white cauliflower.
Black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) looks like blueberries, and has some of the same tang as cranberries.
Although we’ve had a few frosty nights here in Des Moines, IA, my veggie garden continues to produce prolifically. I took this shot of some of the home-grown bounty on my dining room table last evening. The center bowl contains a mix of baby lettuces and mesclun (Both were protected from frost in the garden by floating row covers.) and a couple mini cabbage heads–secondary heads that developed after the main crop head was harvested earlier this summer. I use them like large Brussels sprouts or as I would regular cabbage.
Surrounding the bowl (from the center foreground) are purple ‘Graffiti Hybrid’ cauliflower, ‘Golden’ beet, heirloom red tomatoes, Swiss chard, ‘Small Sugar’ and ‘Long Island Cheese’ pumpkins, collard greens, ‘Red Cored Chantenay’ carrots, ‘Soldier’ beet, and ‘Furry Yellow Hog’ tomato, another heirloom variety.
Shortly after I took this photo, I enjoyed a tasty dinner that included a lettuce-mesclun salad with chopped tomatoes and carrots. Some of the other veggies will make it to the Thanksgiving table–either in the form of a side dish or as part of the centerpiece. They’re so colorful that they’re a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. For more ideas on beautiful vegetable varieties to grow, see our slide show on growing colorful vegetables.